Homeschooling is a generally understood term to mean educating children at home, or without the public/private school day structure of 8-3, 45 minute increments of subjects from Kindergarten through 12th grade, or ages 5-18. The options for homeschooling are endless, ranging from using a curriculum book, tests, and standardized testing--just at home--or not using anything except the library, internet, and wonder of a child as in unschooling. Many people turn to homeschooling for any number of reasons like religious beliefs or temperment and needs of an individual child. I won't spend a lot of time on 'homeschooling' because I think it generally defines any education that isn't taking place in a 'school building, 8-3' situation. Even something like reading books or heading out to the museum, in my opinion, is a great way to 'homeschool'! What I will talk about with a short summary, pros & cons, and a resources section is a Parent Co-Op.
Parenting Co-Ops are generally a grass roots movement born out of the desire to be more involved with children in their education, but lack time to fully invest in homeschooling. Parenting Co-Ops use each adult's unique personality, interests, and gifts to educate all the children in the program. Usually they are small schools, since all of the parents of the students are usually required to volunteer 40 hours (per school year or semester) of their time educating their kids in their own interests. By having a lot of parents, each with their own unique gifts & interests, this can clearly make a very useful education for all children involved and introduce them to many, many ideas and experiences!
For example, if I were to send Lukka and Anikka to a co-op, my 40 hours might be spent doing one of the following: literacy, sewing, knitting, history, or arts & crafts. I know how to do all of these things, have an interest in them, and would be able to create a 'schedule' or 'lesson plan' of what I would have the kids learn in these areas.
- Enrichment. These use everyone's gifts & interests very wisely to enrich the lives of many students; many experiences ensue!
- Very pro-active families + faculties make this educational option a very enriching one for everyone, from students to communities as a whole.
- Cost goes down since adults are required to volunteer their time.
- Engagement! Families might prepare their lessons together, or parents might provide more opportunity into the world of their own hobbies; this type of family time can only be a good thing.
- Real-World Activites Involvement; because parents are teaching their kids their own interests, this means that the children are working on skills and activities that happen in the real world, which provides a sense of purpose and pride in the child's work. (See Montessori post for more of this idea.)
- Committment. I think this is a biggest 'con' for most people, but in my own opinion, it is a matter of individual family priorities. For the average American family that watches more television than spending time together as a whole, this wouldn't jive well. It engages busy parents, who often both work outside of the home, and requires them to step side by side to not only their own child's education, but everyone else's, too! A big responsibility, to be sure, and one I'm not sure a lot of people would embrace.
- Hard to come by. Because of the grass roots nature of these co-ops, they are generally hard to find. Even researching them is a bit daunting because there just isn't that much being reported at this time. This may be more of a word-of-mouth, underground type of school. However, one well-known one, is the GreenMount school. If you are interested in this type of school, your best bet to find one is to google your state or city & the words "parenting co-op" or "education co-op".
- Google! This is a homeschooler's best friend. Use it! :)
- Wikipedia's take on Homeschooling, so it's definition, in a nutshell.
- HomeSchool Style Bytes. A cool blog that talks about homeschooling & unschooling. Updated sporadically.
- Homeschool.com is a very large database for all types of resources for homeschoolers.
- Lessonplanplage.com, I used this for the two years that I worked for Community Learning Centers and needed a quick idea/activity/worksheet that would co-incide with what my lesson plan was. Some of its' sister sites may have yearly fees, like $25/yr.
- Flickr. Research, be inspired by, and visual projects or ideas by the biggest website of photography!
- National Geographic, Smithsonian, History Channel, PBS, etc.etc.etc! All of these websites & magazines/channels have excellent interactive sections (even sections for teachers on a few) that even provide lesson plans that match movies, dvds, or tv specials that you can watch and plan a lesson by! You just have to be able to navigate the website.
- Yahooligans is an excellent search engine (like Google) only for youth!
I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did. Again, the option for creating meaningful & interesting projects & activites for young people are literally endless if you have access to a library or the internet in your home!